Oh Ubisoft for one shining moment you could almost be considered to be bring diversity to gaming and then you go and ruin it.
For those of you who are not aware, Ubisoft revealed their new Assassin’s Creed game during E3 a couple of weeks ago. AC:Unity will add four player co-op up to a primarily stealth based game.
Let’s take a look at the characters you’ll get to choose from when you play co-op
Why is this a big deal?
At this stage you might be asking yourself, why is this a big deal? Most games have a white male as a primary protagonist so it’s no surprise that the co-op up characters would be white males too.
Well firstly, the fact that white males make up a significant number of protagonists in media in general is hardly diverse. This is the subject of Part 2, but I’ll touch on it here.
To quote another of my posts
When I watch films, I experience them from the male protagonists point of view. Women are plot devices, love interests, murder victims or perhaps all 3 but rarely the protagonist.
I’ve played hundreds of games, peering at the world through the eyes of a man, experiencing their stories rather than my own.I’ve rescued many princess but never a prince and never seen a princess rescue herself.
This is the world we live in. A world where the stories and experiences of men are held above our own. A world where we are told that no one wants to hear our stories, no one wants to know what we experience.
Secondly, traditionally in modern four player co-op there is a diverse cast of characters and at least one woman. Left for Dead 1&2, Fuse, Borderlands 1&2 and the Yawhg, all have four characters of different races and genders to choose from.
I’m not saying that there is always a need to stick to tradition, but when a game from 2008 is more diverse than your brand new in development game than I think you’ve got a problem.
This is a big deal because it represents a step back for diversity in games.
Ubitsoft already had a full Assassin’s Creed game whose protagonist was a black woman, so frankly I expected more from them.
Assassin’s Creed Liberation was originally a PS Vita game and the it was released as DLC for Assassin’s Creed 3
Between the all male cast and the comment that a woman would have doubled the animation budget, Ubisoft is sending the message that they no longer care about creating diversity in their games. Perhaps they never did.
They generated tons of kudos and interest because of Assassin’s Creed Liberation and they just threw that all away.
Some commentators have said that including a female assassin would’ve been historically inaccurate, which is just showing their ignorance of history.
The French Revolution is one of the few times in history it would be completely 100% accurate to have a woman fighting and assassinating because women played a huge role in the French Revolution. During the Revolution women fought not only for freedom from the monarchy and aristocracy but also for equality.
The Sans-culottes, played a huge part in the French Revolution, a part that is often forgotten.
In fact a woman named Charlotte Corday, was responsible for the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat, a leader of the Jacobins. According to Charlotte, she was trying to prevent the all out Civil War that Marat seemed to be pushing towards.
You could actually say that it would’ve been more historically accurate to have a woman as the main character in Assassin’s Creed Unity, seeing as how she is one of the only known assassins of the time.
When questioned on this lack, Ubisoft said that it would have dramatically increased their animated budget. Now before I continue I’d like to point out that apart from a short game that I designed in RPG Maker, I’m not a game designer BUT this sounds like a totally bullshit excuse to me for a number of reasons:
To say that all of a female assassin’s animations need to be different is ridiculous.
For the first two games both versions of Commander Shepard had the same animations.
Was it annoying? Sort of,. Was it better than not having the option of a female Shepard. HELL YA!
They could’ve just reused the same or some of the same animations to cut down on the budget requirements.
In fact Aveline de Grandpré shares more animations with Connor Kenway’s animations than Edward Kenway does, so they’ve done it before.
Someone who is a game animator says its bullshit
The “Real” Explanation
As it turns out the multiplayer mechanic works like this; each player is playing the main character and sees the other people as the secondary assassins.
If this is the mechanic then them all being Male Characters makes sense and if this had been what they said at first then there wouldn’t have been such an uproar, but no instead they had to insult everyone’s intelligence with their totally bullshit excuse.
Of course just because they are all male, it doesn’t mean they could’ve of been diverse. One could’ve been black, or swarthy, or had a scar or a hook hand or SOMETHING that added diversity to the game.
At the end of the day being diverse is a choice that you make when you create a game and Ubisoft chose not to make it.
Not just Ubisoft
This is not just a problem with Ubisoft, this is an issue with the gaming industry in general and while it is getting better, it still needs to be addressed.
Join me next week for Part 2